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Heading to Athens

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” Plato.

On the end of next year, Athens will be hosting the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the ultimate WSIS outcome. How this forum will be organized is still unknown. There are, however, some guidelines about the topics that should be included in the agenda and a call for open and inclusive participation. These guidelines, as agreed in Tunis during this week, are somehow blur and not so precise, maybe ambugous, but they were expected to be that way. After all, the whole Internet Governance issue has raised passionate discussions in the last years.

I am listening Lynn St. Amour speech in the plenary room right now, and, even when I think it would be unfair to say that one party won and the other lost, it would’ve been much better for the user and the user-to-be if the focus of the summit were different, and if the governance issue wouldn’t have so much attention. That’s why I think that the real looser in this process is the unconnected. Not the ITU, or Europe, but that one who lives in a remote place without internet connection, or the one who can’t afford it, or even those who can’t use it freely because their government is afraid of giving open access. There wasn’t much improvements for these users in this process, besides elegant political declarations.

Could we expect something more form it? I honestly don’t know. As it seems somehow reasonable for any statement agreed among 175 countries to be ambigous and hazy, maybe it is also reasonable to any process which involves this number of participants to evolve slowly.

And probably, so will the forum. With a long list of issues to address, the IGF will face a tremendous task, and even when it is posied to provide non biding guidelines, they will probably find many dificulties in find common positions. Even more if the discussion keeps hinging around ICANN and it’s mandate.

We will be going to Athens, though, with a new spirit of cooperation and improvement, hoping that the governments allow us to participate fully, and not only as observers, in a really multi-stakeholder process, seeking answers and solutions for those who don’t enjoy the benefits of the Internet today, rather than a pointless fight about technical coordination. At the same time, ICANN itself is redefining its relationship with national governments, showing that it is growing and maturing as an organization.

Hopefuly, we won’t hear anything more about the zone file, root servers, and IP numbers in the coming discussions, but about freedom, development, connectivity and all of those issues that will let us build a new and better internet.

As Luc Faubert suggested here, this learning process will be successful on the premise of new ideas, which can only come out form honest debates and constructive discussions. We are heading Athens with this spirit.

One Response to “Heading to Athens”

  1. McTim Says:

    Hi Sebas,

    I think you are correct in that the WSIS governments talking to each other won’t accomplish all that much on the ground.

    However, the Summit can be seen as a useful meeting in that there are hundreds of exhibitors keen to do ICT4D projects meeting each other to cooperate and make things happen.

    Of course, there are lots of folk present just interested in talking, but the doers outnumbers the talkers. This spirit of cooperation will hopefully produce some concrete results, no matter what hapens vis a vis The F-word.

    bst rgds,